“Who am I?” It’s a question that people face at some point in their lives. For Freestyle seniors, that point was during this Reflections project. For this question that is easier asked than answered, English, Design, and Digital Media designed projects that helped students delve into their personal histories, threw them into the turbulent waters of discomfort, and honed our technical skills into a sharpened point. In English, students mapped out identities through struggles and victories, digging up those precious values and life-changing events in people and ourselves. Students wrote personal essays they could take to college and lyrical essays that told stories poetically.

From the lyrical essay, Design had students take to the streets for the infamous street photography, braving the cold air to photograph the stories of life. Together with a quote from the essay, students would create a diptych inspired by the struggles of others.

Finally, Digital Media students learned how to create and narrate videos in Premiere Pro, our lessons just for you. As a bonus, we also took our lyrical essay or Cool Photo projects and transformed them into 3D animated videos.

Overall, it was a ridiculously hard project for me. The scale and remarkable goals of Freestyle projects have always been interesting to say the least, but as a Freestyle senior, learning more poetic techniques and skills in Photoshop and AfterEffects (a video-editing program) is par for the course. And as a last note, self-reflection can be a hard task for anyone to do correctly. Pointing out our faults and minimizing them is obvious, but just as important is seeing our strengths and playing on them through the struggles of life.

Perspective Video

For the first Digital Media project, the Perspective Video asked students to look at their perspectives on whatever issue they fancied, whether it was Trump’s election, gun control, or why pockets on womens’ clothing shouldn’t just be decoration (why are they so small anyways). Students would then write a short script and narrate it, using photos to illustrate their points in a 2-minute video. This was also the first time students learned how to use Premiere Pro, another video-editing program that professionals today often use. Below is a screenshot of the editing process for Premiere Process and ProTools.

Screenshot of ProTools
Screenshot of ProTools
Screenshot of Premiere Pro
Screenshot of Premiere Pro

The project got students back into the flow of things by remembering how to use ProTools for narration and voice editing, like normalizing a track so that the sounds (like voices) can be easily heard. Then students were introduced to the Ken Burns technique, which involves fading pictures in and out at the same time, so that there is a seamless transition between images without being blinded by a wild white or black background. Overall, it was an easy project that stretched out the old technical skills for Digital Media students. It helped students think about their own values and to bring those values into open discussions on multiple topics. Below is the perspective video.

Cool Photo

In Design, HDR photography and Photoshop editing marked the first technical lessons in the year. First, to explain what HDR photography is, by blending in identical photographs of varying ISO (the amount of brightness in a photo), the final colors of the blended product would be vivid. Surprisingly, in this case, three wrongs do make a right.

But sometimes the HDR photograph alone isn’t satisfying for the photographer. Through Photoshop, students could change the atmosphere of the photo by changing the saturation (the vividness of the colors) even more, brushing slight effects of darkness and lightness to highlight the focal point of the picture, or even cropping the picture down to follow the all-important Thirds rule. In my photo for instance, I took a photo of a teapot, the shadow looking like the body of some tiny goblin. By dropping the saturation and cropping the picture, I created a spookier atmosphere and emphasized the body of the teapot gremlin.

Additionally, since the Cool Project would be presented in person at the exhibition (which is unfortunately in the past now), this presented the opportunity to physically mess with the photograph. For instance, if a student had taken a photo of an ordinary bottle, they could decide to cut out puzzle pieces of it instead and make it seem as though someone were still in the process of solving the puzzle. In my project, I took the idea of someone rushing to cut apart the photo. The easiest way would be to cut the photo into strips and cut those strips into smaller pieces. It was… a process trying to put it back together, but nonetheless it was interesting.

Overall, the Cool Project showed how with some creativity and work, even an ordinary object can become a story about an unknown cryptid potentially stalking the streets of a city. As a student who has already made previous joking works (I photostopped Gumi’s, a popular Vocaloid, head onto the ‘Mr. Worldwide’ meme), the ability to turn a photograph’s atmosphere into something is invaluable. Although, like I mentioned before, I’m sure I won’t ever pick up a camera professionally…

Below are the original Cool Photo and the Reassembled Cool Photo.

Original Cool Photo
Original Cool Photo
Disassembled Cool Photo
Disassembled Cool Photo
Lyrical Essay and Diptych
Lyrical Essay

Click the thumbnail to read my Lyrical essay!

English moved onto the centerpiece of the Reflections project, or, well, half the centerpiece. The Personal Essay focused on the students’ identity through their struggles and hard-won values. The Lyrical Essay focused instead on others’ identities, struggles, and values, which most of the time were at odds with the students’ identities. Thinking on it, I half-wonder if this learning process was also meant to force students to see different perspectives, which would expand their horizons and understandings of others. ‘Reflections’ after all can have multiple meanings, depending on what that person reflects on.

For my Lyrical Essay, I decided to have a redo on a previous project: the free-form poem. This poem required you to pull a ‘feeling’ and a ‘subject’ from a hat, and plug them into this conceptual statement: I am exploring the feeling of ____ through the experience of ____. For me, it was “I am exploring the feeling of admiration through the experience of religion.”

A year ago, I didn’t understand religion, and I certainly didn’t like it. I avoided it and I avoided this poem. Of all the poems I’ve written, this is probably one of the shortest and most vague. Even now, I get chills up my spine thinking about how I felt.

A year later though, my feelings have changed. I’m still not religious, but I was curious how someone could use religion as their comfort, their coping method. So I interviewed someone who did just that. As a note, the requirement of the Lyrical Essay is that all interviewees are anonymous.

From this interview, I took the different stories I heard and transformed them into the poetic Lyrical Essay, filled with imagery of darkness, cloudy skies, never-ending journeys, and light. Click on the thumbnail to read it if you like.

In the end, I still don’t feel comfortable clinging to religion, but I understand why so many people rely on religion to endure their struggles. When life is an endless slog of never-ending roads and the future looks dim, religion helps you to keep enduring and holding out, it keeps you kind, forgiving, and trusting, even if you feel like you don’t have anything else to give.

The Diptych was inspired by the Lyrical Essay. Picking a quote from the Lyrical Essay, students would think of scenarios portraying the quote, such as a scene of one person looking up at the sky in a crowd of blurry passing people for a quote about self-awareness. Then students would take their scenarios and search for them in the streets, secretly taking photos of people, buildings, animals, and objects to find that perfect photograph. Street photography was a major focus for this project, finding those candid moments in everyday life of someone’s reaction or action. Street photography though can be terrifying to do (not too many people like being photographed), so it was a harder project for others (like me) to take care of. In the end, settling is the best thing to do. Below is the Diptych!

Here's the diptych

Cool Video
Fake newspaper

Click the thumbnail to see my fake newspaper!

After the Perspective Video, Digital Media students returned to AfterEffects to learn about 3D effects. Students learned how to create a realistic room, utilizing three dimensions (x, y and z). Then students moved onto using cameras, mimicking the movements of real-life cameras to fly through that previously-mentioned room. Finally students learned how to create atmosphere through lighting and shadow effects, such as from a swinging chandelier.

After these lessons, students embarked on their goal to turn their Cool Photo into a video. For my project I decided to create a fake newspaper article (which you can see by clicking on the thumbnail to the left) and pretend that my Cool Photo was that of a real ‘cryptid.’ The video turned the newspaper into a 3D object swinging it forward and tilting to to create interesting shadows with the lighting effects. I also used the camera to fly around and zoom into the article to highlight the headlines and photos. Below is a screenshot of the editing process in AfterEffects!

Screenshot of AfterEffects

It was like coming home (let’s not confuse this with ‘homecoming’) working on this video, and it was interesting utilizing 3D effects. The 3D, lighting, and shadows added an air of mystery and the flying camera added a quick overview of the article. Below is my Cool Video.